In Gables Construction v. Red Coats, 2019 Md. App. LEXIS 419, Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals considered whether a contractual waiver of subrogation in the prime contract for a construction project barred a third party – a fire watch vendor hired to guard the worksite – from pursuing a contribution claim against the general contractor. The court concluded that the general contractor could not rely on the waiver of subrogation clause to defeat the contribution claim of the vendor, who was not a party to the prime contract. As noted by the court, holding that a waiver of subrogation clause bars the contribution claims of an entity that was not a party to the contract would violate the intent of the Maryland Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act (UCATA).
When dealing with claims involving construction projects, there may exist multiple contracts between various parties that contain waivers of subrogation. The enforceability of such waivers can be limited by several factors, including the jurisdiction of the loss, the language of the waiver and the parties to the contract.
In Gables Construction, Upper Rock, Inc. (Upper Rock), the owner, contracted with a general contractor, Gables Construction (GCI) (hereinafter referred to as the “prime contract”), to construct an apartment complex. After someone stole a bobcat tractor from the jobsite, Gables Residential Services Incorporated (GRSI), GCI’s parent company, signed a vendor services agreement (VSA) with Red Coats to provide a fire watch and other security services for the project.